Orange by-election summary


While the results in Wollongong and Canterbury were less interesting (Labor retained both seats), the result in Orange was fascinating.

The Nationals vote has cratered, but those votes did not go to Labor. Instead the Shooters were the main beneficiary.

The Nationals vote crashed from 66% in 2015 to barely 30% on votes counted so far. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party, who as far as I know have never previously contested a lower house seat, are sitting just below 25% of the primary vote.

Labor has suffered a 4.3% swing, a disappointing result after the party ran hard on winning in the seat.

We now have all election-day votes, as well as iVote and pre-poll votes, but we’re still waiting for postal votes and some other small bundles of votes. The votes yet to report are expected to be slightly less pro-Nationals than those already counted.

The two leading candidates only won about 55% of the total vote, with the remaining 45% of the vote to be distributed.

Labor and the Shooters swapped their preferences (with Labor presumably expecting to be the beneficiary), and I believe that other minor candidates including Scott Munro (who came fourth) favour the Shooters.

I’d expect to see a Nationals vs Shooters preference count tomorrow, which will answer this question, but it seems hard to imagine the Shooters can’t close a 4.5% gap on primary votes off 45% of preferences.

Below the fold I’ll analyse where the swings were largest, how that fits in with the issue of council amalgamations, and include a map showing the swings.

It shouldn’t be a shock that the Shooters did well in a seat like Orange. While the Shooters don’t run for lower house seats, their upper house vote is much higher in Nationals seats in western New South Wales. The Shooters polled 8.2% in Orange in 2015, which was their tenth-highest result. Considering their strength in the area, it shouldn’t be as much of a surprise that they were the main beneficiaries of anti-Nationals anger.

So why did this result come about? The two issues named were the government’s abandoned ban on greyhound racing and their still-current plans to amalgamate local councils.

There is some evidence in the election results that the council amalgamations had an effect, as the swings were largest in areas effected by amalgamations.

Orange covers four local government areas. Conveniently these are the four areas I used to break up my analysis before the by-election.

Forbes and Parkes are unaffected by amalgamations. Cabonne, Orange and the neighbouring council of Blayney have been slated for amalgamations. It’s worth noting that the existing Orange council (which is the last remaining councils in country NSW to pretty much only cover the urban area at its centre, with no rural hinterland) would make up about two thirds of the population of a new council, while Cabonne would make up about one fifth.

Voter groupNAT %SFF %ALP %NAT swSFF swALP sw

To calculate the swing to the Shooters I took their upper house vote by booth as a base.

The swing to the Shooters and away from the Nationals was huge everywhere, but was clearly strongest in Cabonne. The Nationals vote in Cabonne dropped from about three-quarters to just under one quarter. The next most swingy area was the Orange urban area, which will also be affected by amalgamations (but not as badly as Cabonne, since Orange will dominate the new council). The swings in Parkes and Forbes were still strong, but nowhere near as big as in the eastern parts of the seat.

Labor suffered swings all across the seat, but it’s swings were smallest in Cabonne, followed by Orange.

This isn’t to claim that council amalgamations were the sole cause of the massive swings we saw. Swings were still very large in areas unaffected by amalgamations, so I’m sure there were other factors, including the greyhound ban, that were at play. Still, the government should be worried about the impact of council amalgamations, at least in rural areas (the issue seems to be less of a problem in the Sydney region).

Finally, here’s a map showing the swing to the Shooters and away from the Nationals by booth. Click on ‘visible layers’ to toggle.

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  1. the notion labor np 2pp was showing before they realised they were not the final 2
    58% np
    42% alp
    which is a big swing to labor 15%

  2. I must correct the story above, I am not sure how or why people are saying SFFP did a deal with ALP, and that the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party & Labor swapped their preferences. That is incorrect. That was a false TV campaign run by the Nationals. SFFP had the ALP at number 5 on their list, and the ALP had SFFP at number 4 on our HTV card. In fact I had a number of ALP supporters vote for the SFFP because of the TV adds.
    It is still to close to call at this stage, but we are looking good.

  3. “SFFP had the ALP at number 5 on their list, and the ALP had SFFP at number 4 on our HTV card.”

    Yes, but where were the Nationals? If the Nationals were lower (or not on there at all) you were swapping preferences.

    I have no idea whether the Shooters and ALP did a deal, or just decided separately that it was in their interest to put the other above the Nationals, but I have been told by numerous sources that the Shooters and Labor did preference each other over the Nationals (which is the only thing that matters).

  4. Troy Grant is gone in Dubbo and as Deputy Premier Greyhounds and Council Mergers are the key for all the discourse here.

    The Nats need to realise they are not Liberals and nothing like them They are only in partnership to stop Labor nothing else. You will never see a National with pony tail Sunglasses and permed hair and driving a Porcshe

    You can rort Labor and Liberal voters in the city all the time because they still will vote for tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber but you cant do that to Bush voters.

    Remember the Gun Laws, The Nats copped it for years with a sea of Independents in Dubbo Tamworth Armidale and Port Macquarie.continually being re-elected

    Also when the Nats tried to put their mate in Tamworth over Tony Windsor their vote dropped from 66% to 6%

    Bush Voters will not cop bulldust from Pollies for too long

    The Brexit /Trumo/ One Natiion effect has given voters the taste of blood now and finally they have woken up to the fact the can sack a Pollie and Elect a representive

    As soon as the two party system falls the better

    But Barwon wiill be safe for the Nats as our bloke Kevin Humphries crossed the floor over Greyhounds He would make a good leader.
    Well done Shooters, Fishers and Farmers on their first lower house seat Long may it continue

  5. Not the first time the Shooters have run for the lower house, although they’ve never done it frequently. They’ve contested federal lower house seats a few times going back to their founding in the 90s, and in NSW 2011 ran a single candidate in, bizarrely, Toongabbie, who polled 5.3%. Although I believe that was the only time they ran a candidate for the lower house in a NSW general election, they contested the 1996 Port Macquarie by-election and polled 6.8%.

  6. I live in Perth and was born in Canowindra in 1945. .
    I have an abiding interest in the affairs of the area. To watch the amalgamation imbroglio develop has been fascinating, and it has allowed me to do a bit of sniping from the side for the angels who oppose it. My main concern was the adroit transfer of a large Orange debt over a wider spread of ratepayers after amalgamation. To see the Nats knocked down is not pleasant because they are/were a voice inside the Government tent.
    It remains now to see whether Baird does a greyhound and blink in the face of adversity and reverse the obdurate stand on amalgamation which has cost the Cabonne ratepayers a lot of lawyer cash reserves that they could have used for the intended ratepayers. The whole IPART system sets all NSW Councils to fail financially when IPART blythly discounts rate increases by some arbitrary assessment of ‘efficiency’ such that the Council income is less the than that which IPART has said Council requires for it’s ongoing viability. Philip St madness still running the State.

  7. @Murray no not an area affected by the CSG industry. That indeed may have helped SFF since their weakness on that issue may make it more difficult for them in some other western NSW seats.

    This is an interesting result because whilst it’s not unusual for the Nats to suffer a bad result now and then in their usual electoral strongholds, it’s usually at the hands of high profile independents, not a medium-profile minor party. It’s most likely that this is a one-off by-election effect, but as a minor party the SFF can do what independents can’t, and that’s potentially threaten the Nats across a whole swathe of seats rather than just individual ones. No doubt they are making the most of the big increases in party administration funding they won for themselves through cross-trading with their upper house votes.

    One thing that really hurts a party is high profile actions that appear totally at odds with what your base would expect you to do. This is where the greyhound ban would’ve had an effect on the Nats, since it was an action which appeared completely at odds with the position voters would typically expect the Nats to have. Backflipping only reinforces the appearance of disingenuousness, especially as it has looked as though the Nats had little influence in the whole affair.

    I want to suggest another issue here that also may be causing problems for the Nats and fuelling an appearance of ineffectiveness – infrastructure spending. The current government seem to be announcing new multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects for Sydney on a monthly basis, indeed just yesterday they announced another one, but there are few if any new major projects in the rest of NSW. Most projects being pointed to have been long-standing ones in the works since the Carr/Iemma government, nothing new. Present-day thinking on infrastructure and service delivery seems to be spend all the money where the most population is, ie in Sydney. The problem with that approach though is that it only accelerates an imbalance that draws more population and economic activity to Sydney, and continues the economic and population decline that is particularly the case in western NSW. If you’re serious about reversing the trend of centralising population and economic activity in our mega-cities, it seems to me you actually need to spend disproportionately significantly more on infrastructure and services in the regions compared with their population. The Nats aren’t advocating for this, and many others too are focused entirely on the NBN as the regional development solution, ignoring the continuing importance of physical connectivity for shipping goods, accessing employment, education and other services, and lifestyle options.

    With Australia’s vast distances the solutions aren’t simple, but we already have one of the highest concentrations of population in cities of >1 million population in the world, and there’s a serious issue to consider whether we want more and more concentration of population and economic activity in our handful of major cities. This may of course just be my opinion so I’m sorry to go on about it, but I wonder if it’s a significant underlying issue that’s hurting the Nats, particularly at present in NSW where there may be a strong appearance that they’re failing to get anything significant for the regions they represent.

  8. Nick C
    A good overview of the penalties for not providing the ‘roads and rails’ interconnect in the back country.

  9. Sorry for not getting back sooner, as for the SFFP, the only Party that was left off the HTV was the Greens, Scott Barrett was at number 7. The ALP had Scott Barrett at number 8. Scott Munro on his HTV also had SB at 8. The CDP had no one on their HTVIf other than Dianne Decker at 1. If I were doing a deal on preferences then I would want to be number 2 on the HTV not number 5 or number 4.
    Regarding the Forced Council amalgamations, that is a huge issue and will not go away until the Government drop it, or until 2019, then Mike won’t have to do it.
    Its a big issue in the Eastern Suburbs as well, its a shame the ALP and Greens don’t agree with their State Parties on this.

  10. Peter, it’s not relevant what the number is. What’s relevant is where the number is in relation to other candidates.

    If Labor had the Shooters ahead of the Nationals and vice versa (which they did), then they swapped preferences.

  11. Hello Ben
    I think it’s time we got rid of the term ‘preferences’.as a label for a, sort of, each way bet where if my choice doesn’t get up then then “I hate the other one less than the rest”
    Perhaps we should recognise from here om that ‘my preference’ is the candidate whom I choose first, then all the others are the ‘also rans’. One vote – one value.
    On the numbers in Orange it would have been a done seal at 7 o’clock.
    The horse racing attribute is deliberate because Australia invented the handicapping system to drag back to the herd anything that had talent or appeal…rather that to revel in and applaud with some wonder at a superior performance.

  12. 30% of the vote for a candidate with the backing of the incumbent major party is a “superior performance” that we should revel in and applaud?

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